This goldenrod soldier beetle, (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus) is well camouflaged against the petals of the black-eyed Susan in our back yard. Often when looking for insects, it’s a matter of looking for motion, because they blend in so well with the background. I spotted this on after taking a few photos of a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), also on the black-eyed Susans. They are starting to fade, but there will still be plenty of color for a while yet. One interesting thing about this beetle is that the species epithet, pensylvanicus, is the correct spelling and the version with a double n (i.e. pennsylvanicus) is incorrect.
Monthly Archives: September 2020
Dorothy asked if we’d host a dinner for the Fourth Fellows this evening and we did, with all but one of them coming. I made a pretty large batch of spaghetti sauce and we all ate out on the back patio. The plan was for them to stay outside but when the rain started we had them move indoors. Sarah asked if she could bring her dog with her and we said yes. This is Vulcan. He’s a large but relatively gentle creature with a face that reminds me a bit of Scooby-Doo.
It rained pretty hard last night and continued raining today. We can usually judge how hard it’s raining by the streams across our back and side yard and this rain was relatively hard. There were tornado warnings but the wind was never really all that strong here. There was a lot of lightning, though, and at one point the rumble of thunder continued almost continuously. The storm was moving fairly fast and as it moved out, the sun came out and we got another rainbow, which is always a treat.
Cathy and I took a walk on the west side of Lake Frank after work today. The heavy rain we had yesterday meant that the water level was high, but the trail wasn’t too muddy. We enjoyed being in the woods, hearing the birds, frogs, and insects, and being away from traffic and people. We saw large patches of partridge berry (Mitchella repens), which we hadn’t notice there before. Today’s photo, though, is of the ubiquitous Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), a common perennial in our woods.
William and Beth drove down for a visit today and it was so nice to have them here. With the whole Wuhan virus quarantine going on, we are somewhat starved for human contact. Having people visit is a risk, of course. We’re at the point, however, that we need to see people and this was exactly the sort of visit that we needed. Cathy talked a lot with them about family history, and they all looked at pictures. We showed them the work we’re doing with Margaret’s memoirs and with the big scanning project that we’re ramping up.
I suppose you could say these are late summer flowers, rather than fall flowers, but there’s no hard line between summer and fall. The black-eyed Susans are summer flowers and are just finishing up. There are still quite a few of them blooming but not nearly so many as there were. The autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) is just about in full bloom, as is the blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum). The blackberry lily (Iris domestica), which blooms in early summer, is nearly in seed. All together, it makes a pretty nice combination of colors and textures.
We took an outing today to Rocklands Farm and Winery and had a lovely visit with Janis. She and Anna took us to see Anna’s flowers and then we circled back around behind the winery. The grape must that had spilled on the ground outside the work area had attracted quite a few butterflies, including this red-spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax). To me, it looks more like an orange-spotted blue, but what do I know. Their colors are a bit variable, anyway. Nevertheless, this is a pretty distinctive butterfly and always a treat to see.
I was down on the ground taking some photos of a skipper on some blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) when I noticed this spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) just to my right. I got a handful of photos of it before it flew away and I actually got a fairly good one of it just taking off. I think this is a better picture, overall, though, so I thought I’d use it. This is a destructive insect and really I should have squashed it, but it flew away before I had the chance. They do significant damage to many field crops “including cucumbers and other squashes, corn, soy.”
It rained today and I didn’t really get to go out until pretty late. The water on this rose, (the David Austin rose ‘Munstead Wood’) was pretty so I took a few pictures of that. This rose was only planted this spring and it’s doing quite well. The flowers are now up above the top of the hardware cloth fence that I put around it to keep the rabbits off. The flowers are now blooming just below the level of the black-eyed Susans and soon they will be above them. I’m really looking forward to the display we get from this next year.
It rained off and on yesterday but today it really came down. I don’t know that it’s the heaviest rain we’ve ever had but it was probably right up there. I went out onto the back patio under an umbrella and took a few pictures. When it rains hard, we get these streams across our back yard and between our house and the next door neighbors. That’s good, of course, because it means the water is flowing past the house and not into it. Generally, in heavy rains, it looks about like this. Later in the day it was three or four times that width. So, more than we’ve seen in a long time. Our trash can had a good six inches of water in it. Not to say we got six inches of rain (the trash can isn’t a calibrated rain gauge) but it was a lot, anyway.
We have some white swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata ‘Ice Ballet’) in a frequently wet part of the lawn. It bloomed for a nice, ling time this summer and as it gets more established I expect it to do even better. Yesterday Cathy noticed a caterpillar on it and I took some photos. I took a few more today. This is a monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus). Although I generally don’t encourage insects that eat the leaves on our plants, I make an exception for these little guys. We really enjoy the monarchs in our yard and so we put up with the feeding habits of their young.
I’m not at all sure what this wasp is but I’m going to guess it’s a Polistes species, possibly P. fuscatus, the northern paper wasp. I like this head-on shot, although I’d like to have a bit more depth of field. The wasps and bees were thick in the mountain mint and buddleia this afternoon. Autumn is arriving, though, and it’s been cooler, so the insects are not quite so nemerous except in the heat of mid-day. I also got a few pictures of a beewolf (Philanthus gibbosus).
Cathy and I went to Brookside Gardens this afternoon. It was really nice to be out in such a lovely place. There were quite a few people there but it wasn’t as crowded as I sort of expected it to be. We generally go in late winter and then early spring and I don’t remember when we’ve been at this time of year (if we even have). There was a lot to see and we enjoyed it very much. I got a few rose names that I’m going to look for, as well. This is a passion flower (Passiflora alata) called ‘Ruby Glow’
I went to National Airport this morning (a.k.a. Reagan Airport) to pick up Dorothy. Because I had no idea what traffic would be like I left a bit early and pulled off in the Roaches Run parking area, just past 395 and the Pentagon. It’s billed as Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary and while that’s technically correct, it’s a bit misleading. You sort of expect some sort of viewing area or at least a trail or two. It’s just a parking area near some water. There is one “interpretive” sign, but that’s it. I think it’s mostly used by Uber and Lyft drivers waiting for business from the airport. For that, it’s well suited. Anyway, this is a panorama of the buildings in Crystal City across Roaches Run.
Underneath one of the buddleias in our back garden I found the remains of a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). Just last Friday I had photos of a monarch caterpillar (see Friday, September 11). This is the other end of the life cycle, the death of an adult butterfly. Monarchs are quite widespread, being found throughout much of North and South America (and apparently have been introduced in Australia). The color on the wings of a butterfly are made up of very small scales. In the full size version of this image, they are visible, especially in the orange areas.
I’m pretty sure this is a wolf spider (Family Lycosidae) but with about 240 species in North America, and with this not being all that great of a photograph, I’m not really going to try to narrow it down any more than that. It was in the grass near our car and I could only get at it from behind without moving the car, and that would have scared it off. There are a lot of spiders in our yard. I’d be surprised if there were not a lot in your yard, too. Most are small and totally harmless to humans. They also eat things we generally don’t like. So, thank a apider.
We have a patch of Physostegia virginiana (obedient plant) in the back border. This area of the garden was one of the worst in terms of being out of control and we did a lot of digging there this year. Cathy did most of it, although I did help a bit with some of the deeper digging. It was overrun with goldenrod (Solidago) and mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), which we wanted to get rid of completely, but even the things we grew on purpose, like the Monarda and this Physostegia, were out of control and needed to be thinned out. So, we still have this, but less than we did. It’s a fairly aggressive perennial, spreading by both rhizomes and by self-seeding. So, grow with caution.
Native to the Himalayas and the Russian far east, the blackberry lily (Iris domestica, formerly known as Belamcanda chinensis), is a lovely and well behaved herbaceous perennial. It self-seeds pretty well and we promote that by distributing the seeds fairly widely. We’re getting to the point where we might actually pull a few up if they aren’t where we want them, but generally we let them go wherever they come up. They have wonderful, bright orange flowers in succession during the early summer and then the fruit ripens in pods that open up to reveal the “blackberries” that give the plant its common name.
Cathy and I took a walk along Croyden Creek early this afternoon. It has turned cool, although with the humidity in the woods and the steep nature of the trail, I was fairly warm. It was nice to get out, of course, and we only saw a few other people. We walked from the Croyden Creek Nature Center down stream almost to where it joins Rock Creek. Coming back, we turned up a side valley and came out between the two main parts of Rockville Cemetery. Back and the nature center, I took this photo of a western honey bee (Apis mellifera) on an aster of some sort.
I’ve posted photos of painted lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui) before, but not this year. Each of the others show the underside of the wings, which are often folded up when the butterfly is on a flower. I spent quite a while following this one around and managed to get a pretty good shot of the upper wing surface. It’s a pretty, mid-sized butterfly that’s found in five of the seven continents (all but South America and Antarctica). This is the first I’ve seen this year, so I was excited to be able to get some good pictures.
This is a weed and we pull it up but it’s actually fairly attractive. It’s called white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) and it’s a fairly common native plant in our area. It’s similar to the blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) that we have in some of our borders but quite a bit taller (it’s three or four feet tall, compared to about about a foot and a half). This one is behind some shrubs so managed to get pretty much full grown before I noticed it. It will be gone shortly but I thought I’d take some pictures, anyway.
I went out this morning to bring the recycle bins back from the curb and happened to notice this little Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) on the hood of my car. So, it’s not a terribly natural setting and I’ve have loved to be able to photograph it on a flower or something, but I’m keeping it real and telling it like it is (or was). These are quite common in our area and can be found pretty much throughout the United States and southern Canada. They are native to eastern Asia from the Altai Mountains to the east coast and Japan. Their spot pattern and colors are extremely variable, including the black spots on an orange base, as seen here, but also black on red, red, orange, or yellow on black, and even solid with no spots.
The black-eyed Susans in our yard are mostly done. There is a bit of yellow left in spots but for the most part, the petals (technically they are ‘ray flowers’) are brown or at least a deeper, burnt orange color, or have fallen off completely. We generally leave the seed heads for the birds. The gold finches, in particular, seem to like them. I personally like the colors of the fading blooms. Naturally the bright, orange or mid-summer is really impressive, especially with them in such numbers. But the more subdued colors of fall are, to me, more appealing.
This is an unnamed chrysanthemum that Cathy bought last year for her mom’s birthday. We basically did nothing with it since then but it’s come back wonderfully this fall. It’s not quite pure yellow, with a bit of orange in its petals, and a very nice bunch of flowers it really is. We’ve often grown mums and asters but never really more than one or two. This year, in addition to this chrysanthemum in a hanging basket, we have an aster called ‘October Skies’ that we planted in our large, central bed in the back yard. I suspect I’ll post a photo of that before too long, as it’s coming into bloom, as well.
As a landscape plant, burning bush (Euonymus alatus) can be quite striking. I hesitate to ever recommend it. It is an invasive and its use is actively discouraged in many areas (and even banned in Massachusetts, I believe). It’s a native of northeastern Asia and is naturalized over much of eastern North America. The plant we have is in a pot, which helps keep it small, although I’m not really sure I want even that much in my yard. Not that getting rid of ours is going to make much difference, as this is grown all over our area and the cat is already out of the bag.
Cathy and I went to the Dahlia garden at the county’s Agricultural Farm Park this afternoon. I think I’ve found my absolute favorite dahlia of all time. I love dahlias in all their forms and wouldn’t really disparage any of them. That being said, I’ve always been more drawn to the single and mignon classes of dahlias more than the huge dinner plate or cactus classes. This one, however, I really, really like. It’s a laciniated or fimbriated dahlia, characterized by having petals that are split at the end into two or more divisions. Added to that, this one has petals that are a different shade on the front from the back. I particularly like the color combination of orange on the front and almost red on the back. It’s a pretty large bloom, as well and the flowers are absolutely lovely. So, for now, it’s my favorite.
We haven’t had an in-person family dinner night since early February. We’ve had occasional Zoom get-togethers but seriously, as nice as that is, it doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing. It’s been too hot to seriously consider doing it until recently. Now that Dorothy is home and the evenings are cool, we thought it was just about time. So, everyone came over, bringing picnic meals of one sort or another, and we sat on lawn chairs and blankets in the back yard. Everyone wore masks, except for while eating, obviously, and we stayed a bit apart. Nevertheless, it was really good to have everyone in one place again.
I took bunch of pictures of Iris, Seth, and their two kids but I’ll leave those for them to post, if they want to. I also took a few of sweet, little Eloise, but you know what? Older siblings tend to get ignored for a while after their younger siblings are born. So, here’s a photo of Silas, age 2¼. And if you’re wondering about the strap, he’s carrying a camera!
This is the first red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) I’ve seen in the yard this year. It’s wings are pretty ragged but it was fluttering around well enough. We’re seeing fewer butterflies lately, now that it’s cooled off so much, but once in a while we get a treat like this. This one is resting on a rose trellis on the end of our house that used to have a huge, climbing rose on it. That rose died to the ground a while back but it’s finally starting to get up onto the trellis again. Hopefully in a few more years it will be back to its former glory.
The red admiral is cousin to the painted lady (Vanessa cardui) whose picture I posted just over a week ago.
Common purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a noxious weed where it is warm enough for it to survive through the winter. Here it is grown as an annual and it’s the large-flowered cultivars that are grown here, specifically for their flowers, which are present pretty much all summer. The flowers are generally open in the morning and then close up when the day gets hot, but on an overcast day they might stay open all day. Their colors are really something and we’ve loved having them outside our kitchen door this year. In case you’re wondering (I was, so I asked Cathy), the purple flower is Torenia fournieri, commonly known as wishbone flower, an annual that has also done exceptionally well this year.